Friday 11 June 2010

Bread and animosity

Sometimes you get things on your mind for a few days, however unimportant they should be to you. Recently, my wife and I watched for the very first time an episode of Mary Queen of Shops, with Mary Portas. I had never heard of the woman before, but she seems to be the kind of businesswoman I usually like: smart, educated, sophisticated and well, almost artistic. The concept is interesting if a bit unoriginal: Mary Portas goes out to help struggling/failing shops that need a serious revamp. The same as Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare and others.

Well, the first episode of the third season really got me obsessed since I saw it three days ago on IPlayer. In it, Portas comes to help Mahers and Sons, a London bakery stuck in the seventies by its owner's own admission, if not pride. Angela Maher and Portas clashed in a struggle of epic proportions and it stirred a fair bit of controversy. To cut a long story short, Portas wanted to revamp and modernise the bakery while Angela Maher wanted barely any changes. She resisted any suggestion, even tried to sabotage a few initiatives in order to protect her vision of bakery business and, more importantly, came off as rude and dismissive to practically everybody around her. As far as I could tell, the owner got little public support after the program. Whatever the bakery wants to spin, and however they want to spin it, I have no sympathy for the woman at all. I am a nostalgic man, I am actually a sucker for nostalgia, I can spend fortunes on old fashioned sweets as my readership knows. But even an unpractical nostalgic as I am knows that one cannot make a business viable by living in the past and that nostalgia, if that is indeed your niche, has to be profitable. But I could have excused the stubbornness of an old lady had she been considerate to the people around her. Angela Maher was rude, dismissive, condescending towards her own baker and downright arrogant and insulting towards an artisan baker, which you can see below. I understand that you can edit a program to make someone look worse than he/she is, but there is just so much you can really do.

And that's what really got me in this program, that's why it got me obsessed for days, so much so that I want to watch the episode again. We all had to deal with ungrateful, stubborn people and people with bad faith, people who only feel good, or better, when they put people down, with all the bad faith and venom they can have, so it flatters their own inflated idea of themselves, people whose only thing they really value is their own vanity. We all had bosses like that, teachers like that or neighbours like that. So yes, it got me all right. Anyway, you can see for yourself below. (And a disclaimer in case somebody thinks I am stygmatising Mrs Maher or taking part in a virtual lynch mob. Sure, she is no public figure, but she took part in a TV program, she knew her actions were going to be public and therefore susceptible to be criticised. I am sure she can be a charming old lady with her friends and loved ones, but it excuses nothing of her apalling behavior in the program.)

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